Colorado budget proposes $37 million increase for higher education

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s budget proposal released last Thursday includes increased funding for higher education.

According to Chad Marturano, director of legislative affairs at the Colorado Department of Higher Education, the budget includes approximately $37 million for higher education.

$30 million of this increase applies to operating funding, while the remaining $7 million goes to various financial aid programs, Marturano said.

Of the $7 million, $5.3 million goes to need-based financial aid for students from a lower income background with demonstrated financial need. The remaining $1.7 million goes toward other various financial aid programs.

The budget proposal also includes a recommendation to fund level one and level two controlled maintenance projects in higher education, at a total of $25 million according to Mike Hooker, CSU’s executive director of public affairs and communications.

“Of the $30 million for operating, the CSU system will get about 20 percent,” Hooker said in an email to the Collegian. “That translates to roughly $6 million for the CSU-Fort Collins campus.”

This $6 million represents a 5.9 percent increase in state funding from fiscal year 2012-2013 to fiscal year 2013-2014, according to Marturano. The average increase in funding via this budget proposal for public universities in Colorado is 5.8 percent.

On the lowest end of the spectrum is Western State Colorado University, with a 4.5 percent increase. On the highest end is the Colorado School of Mines with a 6.6 percent increase in state funding.

The University of Colorado system, which includes campuses in Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver and the Anschutz Medical campus, would receive a 6.4 percent increase in funding, which comes out to about $9 million.

Hooker said there are no specifics yet on what the increased budget money would apply to at CSU, but that it would go towards helping keep tuition down and building on the quality of the university.

According to ASCSU President Regina Martel, the increased higher education funding the budget will not directly affect ASCSU, as it is funded completely by student fees.

“I think it sends a positive message to our university that Colorado is starting to care again about higher education,” Martel said. “It’s been kind of dismal lately. I think this sends the right message that higher education is something Colorado needs to focus on.”

More than 90 percent of the governor’s general fund budget is spent on K-12 schools, higher education, health and human services and public safety, the governor’s office said in a CBS News article.

“Since the 08-09 school year, public universities’ funding has been cut by over 27 percent from a high watermark of $706 million down to $513 million in the current fiscal year,” Marturano said.

The current proposal would increase this number to $543 million.

According to 2010-2011 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), CSU-Fort Collins receives $219 in state appropriations per student, plus $1,860 per student from the College Opportunity Fund, which is a unique state appropriation to Colorado. This puts CSU at a total of $2,079 in state appropriations per student.

When comparing this number to its 13 peer institutions, CSU ranks the lowest in state appropriation per students. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ranks closest above CSU with $5,943 in state appropriations per student.

North Carolina State University at Raleigh ranks the highest on the list of peer institutions with $15,558 in state appropriations per student.

The data also reveals that state appropriations are one percent of CSU’s core revenues, not including the College Opportunity Fund. CSU’s peer institutions’ state appropriations as a percentage of core revenue range from 14 to 40 percent.

Marturano said today’s budget proposal is a step in the right direction but doesn’t solve the problem of cuts in higher education in the past few years.

Research institutions like CSU took a lot of the cuts because they have the ability to absorb cuts due to a bigger non-residential population than non-research institutions, according to Marturano.

Marturano also explained that enrollment is counter-cyclical, meaning when the economy is down, many people go back to school to retrain and have competitive skills in the labor market.

Due to enrollment increasing while funding was cut, resident students came out with a 36 percent decrease in state funding.

“There’s a lot of programs that have been cut over the past few years and this budget seems to address those things and things that will make us competitive tomorrow and in the future,” Marturano said. “Higher education is one of those things.”